It has crossed my mind for more than two years to help out@volunteer at any one of the few soup kitchens in kl. Been a silent reader of Pertiwi Soup Kitchen for the past two years..but somehow i never got started. I remember texting the contact person once asking about how to join, but going at it alone, i failed to work up that courage to go.
Morale of the story, when you feel like or have an idea of doing sthg good, do it immediately. Just go out there and do it! Or you'd end up like me, wasting years of possible helping-out-time doing nothing about it.
I'm talking about this now, because last saturday night I had the privilege to finally volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Its a different soup kitchen than the one that i've been stalking as i was just following some friends who just started to volunteer. But it doesnt matter, the point is doing it.
Sometimes life is like that. You make plans that take forever to happen. And end up doing sthg spontaneously.
The soup kitchen i went with is Kechara soup kitchen (*here onwards written as KSK). Since it was my first night, i had to be at the office@kitchen@centre at jalan barat off jalan imbi in kl at 8pm. I was working untill 7pm and so around 7.30 started my drive from cyber to kl, taking the Mex highway. It was raining and i got there around 8.10pm. Luckily the briefing hadnt started yet. But the place was already busy with volunteers, all in red tshirts deviding breads, fruits and drinks into groups.
Ok to be honest, first impression - i was a bot startled to find out that Kechara is actually a Buddist association, or a society, a hpuse or sthg. So this KSK is somehow related to it.
But i decided to keep an open mind.
It was quite a sight. My bestfriend's sisters & father who i'm following in this one would only be coming at 10pm as they already attemded the new-joiner briefing the previous week.
The briefing started at around 8.30 and finished about 15mins to 10pm.
We were beong briefed by Mr.Wong, who in his own witty but firm way, explained to us the background of KSK. So i got my answers.
KSK was inspired by a guru Kechara. Hence the name KSK, but Kechara Soup Kitchen itself is a registered, non profit non religious organization that was set up to help out the homeless and the hardcore urban poor in KL.
What started as 20packs a week in 2006 became to close to 2500 packs a week today.
I found it interesting when Mr.Wong told us that it was initiated by these 4 people, followers of this buddhist guru, who at that time came to him asking for life advices. They kept coming saying that their life was not good and that they were always unfortunate. The guru's advice was - go feed the poor!
Simple methadology - feed the poor, and try to feel their pain and hunger. Then one will start feeling that their problems are not the worst in the world.
During that time, they used their own money to buy mamak food - also told by their guru because mamak food is halal so the food can be eaten by the muslims - Ya Allah, berilah hidayah pada hamba2 mu itu ya Allah!
I instantly felt ashamed for feeling a slight doubt at the beginning!
As long as i am not doing anything wrong in Islam, i see nothing wrong in going on to volunteer.
Besides, as it is registered under its own wing, it is being audited like any other parties, the donations and fundings dont get crossed -ver to other parts of Kechara.
Anyway, this seems to be the first thing that Mr.Wong explained, i'm sure he gets questions about it a lot.
The briefing went on about what causes people to live on the street, the do's and dont's when on the rounds, the rules of thumbs etc. Mr.Wong also told us stories of some people that he encounters, of some that they've helped to live off the streets and re-enter society.
There are too many reasons for this urban problem to exist, failure finding a job, bad divorce, domestic troubles, old folkes running away from home@hospitals, drugs, sex bussiness, mental illness..or simply luck, or lack of it.
Some of them are strong enough to work odd jobs at daytime, but not getting enough to rent a place. So between rent and other necessities like food, they chose to live on the street.
Even though reality is that some are on the streets by choice, soup kitchens like KSK often avoid making judgements and instead try to give instant help for them to survive - by giving food, and also long-term solution like hooking them up with jobs or places to live like rumah org2 tua etc.
Owh..at one point, i felt really sebak inside and was holding back from tearing up when Mr.Wong said things that really touched my heart.
The room also fell into silence as Mr.Wong told us stories of how these people were shut off from their own sons and daughters and the society, fell to the lowest point of their life that they had to be at the receiving end.
It really came across to me that it must have been really hard own their self esteem and dignity as a human being, but to survive, they just had to.
I'm still talking abt the briefing!
But seriously, the one hour ++ briefing really opened my eyes and heart and i felt really glad that i finally took the steps to come.
So moving on...after brieving, we lined up to buy the volunteers tshirts. Rm30 for a quality red tshirts. Ok la..it makes sense to have all volunteers wearing the same thing, and a bright color as we would be going onto dark streets and even some back alleys.
The tshirt makes it easy to spot a volunteer.
For our safety purpose and also for the clients to easily spot us.
After 10pm, we went downstairs to join the crew, was briefed again to be devided into groups (=routes) and splitted.
I was with the girls and uncle, one of the girls boss(and american who married a malay) and a few other senior volunteers. We were taking the brickfields routes with 75 packs of hot vegeterian food+bread+apple@orange@mineral water.
We went in 3 cars, my car got lost a bit. Haha. Useless co-pilot(=me!) So we missed the first drop off point.
met them at the 2nd point near petronas brickfields.
They already know the 2-3 people living there so it was quick and brief.
Then into one of the backstreets, from where we parked i could see a little 'living area' of a few clients. Looks like they collect recycle items.
We didnt approach this group first.
We went to a nearby jejantas and found 3 guys, one young guy scooted off after a shot chat with uncle and the american bos. So only two left.
I went up with Iman and uncle to give the food, quite extraordinarily-nerve wrecking experience.
I remember looking into this man's eyes, he looked to be maybe in his 40s and i will never forget that look :(
Ya Allah I am thankful that my parents and family are sleeping at home at that moment, under the roof and behind locked doors, away from the streets.
And then we approached the 'garbage collector' gang. We were warned by the senior volunteers to take it slow and follow behind as these guys may be drunk, and yes i could smell it.
About 4 packs there, and off we go.
Next was a 'sabahan spot'. It was a spot under a flyover@bridge, where apparantly about 13 people live there. But that night we only got to give maybe 6-7 packs. Many were not home yet.
Next i think we went near a construction area behind kl sentral, where we met two uncles settling down in front of a 7e.
They look very clean, if I had met them on the street, i wouldnt even know that they are homeless!
After that nearby cimb bank..
And then, as the rest of the packs will go to a spot thats tricky to park 3 cars simultenously, we decided to split. Only one car go, the other two including us would go home.
But after taking my car at the centre, we decided to drive to jalan tar and look for this particular family who they met last time.
They had earlier passed a pack of disposable diapers to the group taking that route to be passed to this family.
We got there in no time, as it was already past midnight and there were hardly any traffic.
The sight just broke my heart.
Father, mother and two kids making a bunkbed out of cardboards and boxes on the walkway near kamdar.
the two kids - look to be about 4 & 2 y.o were sleeping, while the parents were still awake. We could see that they already got the food and the diapers and they seem ready to finally sleep, so we just say a quick hi and wish them goodnight. It was good to hear that they finally got a home to live in - probably a dbkl flat - and will be off the street as soon as next week.
From what they say, what i experience that night was a 'beginner's course'. The petaling street - jalan tar - jln masjid india is hardcore. C.m is advance course, with some spots even labelled as off limits.
We called it the day and drove home. I had a sleepover at their house and a lazy sunday morning & afternoon with bestfriend, amal & her daughter, alia :p
I went that night hoping to be part of the solution and just do what i can do.
I hope that one day i can afford to donate some $$ but for now, being able to donate time and energy is just as rewarding.
I agree with Mr.Wong that we could talk about who to blame for these people to be on the streets, for not getting help finding jobs and homes to live in, for not getting the financial aid, the support that they need etc.. we could fight about it untill the cows come home or we can be part of the solution and help what we can.
In the recent price hike, i get really bored listening to people whining and complaning about struggling tp make ends meet, not getting enough etc. I get bored because the complains most of the times come from those who's never really had it that hard in life. These are people who were never deprived of good education and good food. These are people who afford to buy their own house, these are people who afford to change car, go vacations, buy gadgets and watch tv on nice big flatscreens. These are people who sleep in comfortable beds and airconditioned room and later complained about the tariff increament and kids getting sick of pneumonia later.
It really hit me that way seeing those kids sleeping on the streets with but a thin piece of cloth as blankets. I sometimes complain to myself that my room is hot at some nights.
I realized that a lot is wrong about the way things are managed at the moment, at all levels, economically amd politically but i tend to look from the bottom way up. I think society in the first place has something wrong.
The politicians will have to answer later if they missed in doing their job but what about us, me included?
Maybe i@we should start looking inside instead of the outside when things are less than ideal.
I wanted to help, instead i learnt a lot. I gained a lot that night and i hope i will continue to volunteer and be regular.
Maybe build up that long-overdue courage and join Pertiwi soup kitchen to volunteer there too as they do other nights than saturday as well.